Hide, or Heal
“There’s a scream inside that we all try to hide…”
(Sia, “Bird Set Free”)
Okay, I confess: I’m a huge American Idol fan. Have been since the beginning. And last night’s episode was beautiful. The final 4 contestants sang songs by Sia, the brilliant songstress from Australia who has chosen to forever cover her face with a b&w wig, so that she might protect her precious privacy, while still sharing with the world her gorgeous gifts.
Sia mentored the contestants during the week prior, and we got to see footage of those encounters. The last one was the most moving. Dalton, a young Texan theater-type, confessed to the world last week that he is bipolar. Apparently Sia watched that episode, because she flat-out asked him, “So, you’re bipolar?” After he nodded in affirmation, she joined him: “Me, too.”
There was no hint of trepidation in her voice, no hesitation in her admission. Knowing she would be revealing this to millions, Sia only seemed to care about connecting with the one in front of her, a fellow artist with a very challenging brain disorder. What happened next on the show sealed the emotional deal. Dalton came out revealing himself in song, singing Sia’s powerful “Bird Set Free.” In the song, Sia explains that she has found a way, through music, to openly express “the scream inside that we all try to hide.” Singing her pain outloud to others has given her freedom from that pain, like a bird finally set free.
What a long way we’ve come. Mental illness is still so misunderstood, even by us experts, but moments like last night show there is at least a growing appreciation for its power, and its ubiquity. Every one of you reading this has been affected by some form of mental illness in your family or among your social circle. Depression, addiction, personality disorders, brain chemistry imbalances, something. Thankfully, through scientific advancement, and courageous confessions like last night, admitting such family struggles is easier than ever. And that is the best step towards getting your loved ones help.
I also want to encourage us to look inside as well. No, not all of us have a diagnosable mental illness. Not even close. But I believe Sia is right—there is a “scream” inside we all try to hide. Perhaps with you it’s a rage. Or a sadness. Or a series of regrets about your choices thus far. Maybe it’s a deep, growing resentment towards your spouse, your work, your God, yourself. What’s the “scream” inside you? And how much are you trying to hide it?
While we won’t solve this in one simple email, I do want us to recognize the brilliance and beauty of what Sia has discovered about herself, her own “scream,” and her path to freedom. She has learned a fundamental truth about life: we can hide, or we can heal. While Sia has chosen to hide her face to remain private, she has chosen to sing her pain in public. That way, she can save for her closest loved ones something special, and she can use her art to help others do the same—to their loved ones.
We can hide, or we can heal. Get to know your own “scream,” and have the courage to share it with someone. Don’t show your pain to everyone, by any means, but don’t be so scared you share it with no one.
I promise you: freedom awaits.