Americans are obsessed with secrets. Have you noticed? One of television’s highest rated shows right now is “The Secret Millionaire” where millionaires secretly infiltrate non-profits and charities pretending to be you Average Joe or Jodie and at the end of a few days determine what good-doers deserve a portion of their fortune and how much and then dish it out. There are plenty of scandals involving secrets – secret sex tapes, secret bank accounts, secret political donations and the list goes on. Then there are diet, workout, beauty, and make a fortune in a second (no, we promise this isn’t a pyramid scam) entrepreneurial secrets (don’t even want to give them the satisfaction of any click-throughs they may get). There is of course “Secret” deoderant – never been a big fan, but hey apparently it works (I’m bet it’s because of their secret formula – ha). There is 2006 best seller “The Secret”, which as far as I can tell is a self-help book turned occult. And, there is the biggest secret of them all – Victoria’s Secret.
I know I have secrets. Here’s one: I put on perfume anytime I know Ken is going to Skype me. Silly, right? I’m the only one smelling it, but it makes me feel sexy and I think he would like it if he were here.
Some of my secrets are fears. For example, I’m scared I’ll never be able to really run again and imagining hours of my life spent on various versions of ellipticals and bicycles just to get that endorphin high I’ve been addicted to since my youth nearly shatters my spirit. I hate doing cardio in the gym when it’s above freezing. I just want to be outside running, but each day – 6 to 7 days a week – I drag myself to the gym to whittle away hours, inches and pounds (L.B.s as I like to call them), to unload stress and to feel those endorphins and try to get down to my pre-stress fracture weight. (The bigger secret here is how selfish that probably makes me seem, huh?)
2 more secrets: I wanted to be 2 inches taller and be a model when I was a teenager (but who didn’t). I think the fact that I have three tattoos is a secret to some of my family, but not anymore – right?
Some secrets, like the ones I’ve told you, are harmless. Just little pieces of what makes me “Jen Barker”. Other secrets eat away at us if we don’t tell someone. They can control us.
At the end of my freshman year of college I went through something that was very difficult and while I confided in friends and eventually in a couple of professors, I saw a therapist for a bit. This short-lived pay to divulge how and why this semi-secret was eating at me did a lot of good, and I think it may be the only reason I climbed out of that dark abyss that seemed to surrounding me those days. Some people can’t afford therapy or don’t know where to go and they feel alone. The worst secrets can take hold and act as a leach sucking the joy and determination out of a person’s life. That is where, for hundreds of thousands of people, PostSecret comes into play.
Each Sunday, Frank Warren publishes 20 + “secrets” on his website – www.postsecret.com. In a recent interview with small Georgia-based site Connect Statesboro, Warren said, “I was always fascinated with secrets in my own life. I felt like my family had secrets — some that I knew and some that I didn’t — and I had this faith that if I could create this project and really earn the trust of strangers to share their deepest concessions with me, that would be really special.” And thus, in 2004, PostSecret was born.
Many Sundays there is a focus on secrets dealing with suicide or drug addiction or bulimia or deployed military. Some Sundays, the mostly handmade postcards displaying the secrets are quite random, with many that’ll make you laugh.
For about two years, I awoke each Sunday and read Post Secret. Most Sundays, I sat in front of the computer, scrolling through the secrets with tears running down my face, thinking, “Damn, why is there so much pain?” (Note: I am a crier by nature. Not a public crier, but at home, if triggered by a commercial or, as recently noted, the arrival of a large dry erase board, the tears flow.)
While crying, I would also find relief know that not only did these people find a way to tell their secrets, they often received help. While remaining completely anonymous, people commented on the secret baring postcards, offering words of encouragement and advice (Note: This piece of the site is no longer active in the same way. To participate in conversation you now go to PostSecret Community) Also, Warren has made a point to publicize via his website and support financially through his books and fundraisers a suicide prevention program called Hopeline.
When you visit PostSecret – I hope you do if you haven’t – you will notice something every different from other large blogs – there is no advertising and thus no censoring body. Any secret – no matter how brash or unseemly – can be published.
We all have secrets. Most of them shade our personalities in wonderful and interesting ways, but if you have a secret that isn’t so delightful – something that is eating at you, maybe it would help to share it. If you are struggling with addiction, depression or thoughts of suicide (I know I sound like a commercial here – sorry), talk with a friend and seek professional help now.
Read more about how PostSecret got started here.