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HomeResourcesCultural ResourcesYou're Only As Sick As Your Secrets (Kirsty Spraggon at TEDxMalibu)

You’re Only As Sick As Your Secrets (Kirsty Spraggon at TEDxMalibu)

Ted Talk by Kirsty Spraggon on your only as sick as your darkest secrets
“I hope that for everybody out there that you get to a place where the truth will set you free, because your desire to heal has to be greater than your fear.” (Image: Kirsty Spraggon at TEDxMalibu)

The title of this article is a popular saying in Western culture and 12-step groups specializing in addiction recovery. Someone who carries no secrets in a world as guarded and judgmental as our own is a rare specimen. And some people carry secrets that have deeply impressed their lives. Shame and guilt are what keep people from opening up, despite the therapeutic potential of sharing. As does the fear of being judged, which has the potential to further damage the secret bearer.

Kirsty Spraggon knows the power of a well-kept secret. Spraggon kept one of her own for 18 years that she only shared with a small number of people due to the stigma and shame associated with it. However, Spraggon also knows the power of opening up. Spraggon’s secret is now public, and she can confidently say that “Every time I tell it, I feel lighter and I feel freer.”

Spraggon founded KirstyTV, which provides a platform for people to open up about taboo or “shameful” topics like human trafficking, depression, and addiction. Through her experience and observation, she identified three principles in the people who were able to heal and get to a place of freedom. I paraphrase them in the imperative as 1-) Have the courage to be vulnerable; 2-) Change your perspective; and 3-) Reveal to heal, both self and others.

One year after giving her TEDTalk, Kirsty commented this inspirational testimony on YouTube:

A year on….I feel lighter, healthier, happier, fuller. My hearts not just full. It’s expanded. I am doing my best work on stage ever. I am more vulnerable. My healing has sent out a ripple effect of healing in others and it is a beautiful full circle. The things I feared the most have not come to pass. In fact, the opposite has happened — my life and business are fuller and richer than ever.

Kirsty Spraggon

Check out the video and my transcript below! And consider sharing it with a friend. It was a friend who shared it with me that prompted me to circulate it.

When we hide our secrets, we isolate ourselves from information, from people, from community, from connection, and we make that secret grow and manifest bigger and larger than it could possibly ever be. . . When we share our souls, when we share our secrets, we heal ourselves and we heal other people.

Kirsty Spraggon

For more, check out Kirk Franklin: I Learned Early On In My Faith That I Healed As I Revealed.

Transcript of TED Talk “You’re Only As Sick As Your Secrets” by Kirsty Spraggon

My heart is beating out of my chest. If the microphone was on my heart, you’d be able to hear it beating a million miles per minute, because I have a secret I’m going to share. We all have secrets. As they said in the earlier show, sometimes they’re silly things. Sometimes they’re frivolous. But I think a lot of us carry secrets that are deeper than that.

A lot of us carry secrets that have stigma and shame and guilt attached to them that we bury deep inside. If we look at the statistics, on average it’s 1 in 3, 1 in 5, 1 in 8 on most things. Like depression, suicide. On average, there’s somebody statistically in this room who has an addiction, who’s had suicidal thoughts, who’s been a victim of child abuse.

And we bury these secrets so deep down that sometimes we forget that we have them. But most of the time they infect our lives and show up insidiously. They show up as dysfunctional relationships, broken families, numbing the pain in so many different ways.

So, my secret – three little words – so easy to say, and yet the most difficult thing for me. *Sighs* I have herpes. Not the kind up here, the kind down there. My brother laughed out loud so hard when I told him that he cried because he said, “I thought it was going to be something more serious than that.”

But the truth is that our secrets only have that meaning for us. That deep stigma, that shame and that guilt that manifests over so many years of hiding it. I kept my secret for 18 years. And so, there were small ways that I let it out. People that I trusted and talked to about it.

There was a lady who was a counselor, who called me about 7 years ago, and she said to me, “I’ve diagnosed a young lady who was in her 20’s at the time” – the same age I was when I found out. And she wasn’t coping very well. She thought this was the end of her life. And she asked her if I would speak with her anonymously.

So, I spoke with this girl on the phone, and when I hung up I bawled my eyes out. It was like this amazing relief and freedom and I felt lighter from sharing it. But more profoundly, I felt the beginning of my healing. In sharing with her, I was able to give her some hope that life didn’t have to end. That she would be able to go on and have amazing relationships and love. And that there would be people who would want to date her and be with her.

And all the things I said to her were all the things that I realized I had never said to myself. All of the things that I said to her were the things that I wish someone had said to me a lot sooner than allowing 18 years to go by.

And so that was the seed of my TV show. And today’s the first time that I’m sharing that. You know, for me, I started to think, “What if we could create a community where people share their stories and their secrets and help other people to lift that shame and that guilt and that stigma? If they could show them that there was a way to move forward. If they could give them hope.”

Because when we hide our secrets, we isolate ourselves from information, from people, from community, from connection, and we make that secret grow and manifest bigger and larger than it could possibly ever be. So I started sharing on Kirsty TV. Everyone from people who’ve been human trafficked, to stripping, to depression, to addiction and everything in between.

And there were three universal principles in the people who were courageous enough to share their stories – [that] all had to go through to get to that place of freedom and be set free. The truth really does set you free.

Principle #1: Have the courage to be vulnerable

And the first one was the courage to be vulnerable. To be naked. That’s how I felt for the last two days. I can’t even tell you how ill I’ve been feeling today. And yet now, it’s released. Every time I tell it, I feel lighter and I feel freer. But to tell it does feel like being naked. You know those dreams when you wake up and you’re naked at work or a public place – everyone has them – I don’t know why we dream of being naked, but maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s our vulnerability dream.

But you have to be willing to be courageous enough. I had a picture of a lion’s head on my screensaver this week. Because I had to tell my family and friends this secret before I felt comfortable to do this in public. It doesn’t get anymore public than TED.

And it’s ironic because for years I couldn’t even say the word herpes. I had to call it x. I wrote x in my diary. I never shared the word. I just could not share the word. I felt such guilt and shame around it. And it’s ironic I would be sharing it at TEDx. *Laughs* I know. The universe works its magic once again.

So you have to have the courage to be willing to put yourself out there and be naked. And it was really hard. I’m not saying it’s easy. There’s totally a disclaimer on this stuff. This is the hardest work I’ve ever had to do in my life. Almost as hard as the 18 years of carrying it. But there is that sense of feeling freer and lighter every time. And everyone reacts in different ways. They need to catch up with you and where you’re at. And that’s okay.

Principle #2: Change your perspective

The second thing—the universal principle I noticed—was they had to look at things differently. I’m always going to have herpes. If you were raped, you were raped. What happened to you happened to you. What you did, you did. You won’t be able to remove it, somehow magically clean the slate. It’s a part of you. And you have to choose to look at that differently. I now see it as my greatest gift.

This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through in my life, but I also see that it’s my greatest teacher. It’s infected the work that I do today in a positive way. It’s informed the work that I do, and it’s made me more empathetic, more understanding. I learned very early on that people can look really put together on the outside and not be so put together on the inside.

So everybody has a story and everyone has a secret. It gave me more empathy and more understanding and more compassion for humanity. And so you have to choose to look at it differently. I had a guest – little Piggy who’s here today – [she] was on my show. And I always remember Piggy saying to me, “I’m still a little person.”

She had to change how she felt about that. She was never going to grow and be tall overnight. I had to change how I felt about this. And you have to change how you feel about whatever you’re secret is. I like to call them “pretty little secrets.” When you get to a place where you remove the shame and the stigma and the dirty secret, it’s get to become a “pretty little secret.”

When you choose to look at it differently and see it as the greatest gift in your life, the greatest teacher in your life, that can be a beautiful place. And it’s the only way that I’ve seen with everyone I’ve worked with that has been able to move forward.

Principle #3: Reveal to heal, both self and others

And then the last one that when we share our souls, when we share our secrets, we heal ourselves and we heal other people. When I spoke with that lady, it healed me and it healed her. And we were both able to move forward in a new way.

Last week, when I told one of my friends in Australia – she had known me for a long time and I never shared this with her. She took my hands and she look at me, and she said, “Me too.” And we both started crying. And she said to me, “If you’re brave enough to share this with the world, then I’m going to be brave enough to share it in my world.”

And that’s why I’m doing this today. Because I hope that for everybody out there that you get to a place where the truth will set you free, because your desire to heal has to be greater than your fear. Your desire to heal has to be greater than your fear.

Thank you.

You're only as sick as your darkest secret
An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).

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