So, my counselor and I were talking a couple of days ago, and I was telling her about this blog (or as my sis and I pronounce it: blawg). I told her the purpose of it was to be open and honest about my journey with mental illness and to show others that you can be a successful person, even if you suffer from one. I told her I wanted to break down stigmas of the mentally ill as being dangerous, dependent, or volatile people who should be avoided; that I felt the need to take off the masks I wore for decades while trying to act ‘perfect’, so that others can feel more comfortable doing the same. She asked me what all I share, and I told her I was pretty frank in my posts, and got as personal as I saw fit.
Then, we started yacking about my 2 date guy because I wanted to tell her it was no longer in the works. I also told her that I thought him reading my blog may have scared him a bit (that may not be true…I just have a feeling), and off we went on a discussion as to whether or not me blogging was worth possibly sacrificing potential relationships.
And I had a long drawn out answer for her: “Yes.”
I’ve always been a talker (I know…huge shocker for those who know me) and I’ve always had a hard time respecting boundaries. Even though I’ve only started speaking out about being bipolar for a couple of years now, I still opened up way too much to people about other aspects of my life. I am one of these people who speak first, and think later! Not necessarily a good thing! Part of that has to do with being bipolar, and another part comes from being such a feeler while lacking enough outlets in which to talk, that when I get into conversations, I want to jump right in. Head first.
But what’s too much to share about myself on this public blog? Actually, a few things. Yes, I share things about relationships that I feel are pertinent to my feelings and behavior, but I would never share intimate details of alone time, if you get my drift. I’m also very careful what I share about family, and don’t use their names, only initials which aren’t always theirs. I never want to identify anyone on this, and even yesterday, when I used pics of ma, T, and O, I asked them first before I did so.
We all have secrets, don’t we? Secrets that are only ours…only in our head…only in our hearts. There’s a place inside of me that’s for me only. And I protect it. I’ve learned through experience that revealing everything about yourself makes you extremely vulnerable, and can be used against you as well.
Those of my students reading this will tell you something I teach in my Marriage and Family classes is to zip it. We live in a culture where total self-disclosure is an everyday thing. We see people talk about everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. “Hey, Jerry…I had sex with my sister’s cousin husbands wife, stole a $1000 from my mom, and tried to boink the UPS worker when they delivered my box of sex toys.” OK. Good to know. Listen, I’m a huge believer that we DON’T have to share everything. NO! I think it’s so important to weigh the pros and cons of disclosing. Of baring yourself. I truly believe that not everything has to be heard. We may need to SAY it, but they may not need to HEAR it. Often, we disclose to unburden ourselves. To make ourselves feel better. But here’s the thing, grasshoppers: when you unload your burden when talking to another, it moves that burden to their shoulders. Why would we do that? What purpose does that really serve? When I need to unload, I talk to God. Edward. Dottie. They are all great listeners and I know they can handle any burden I give them well.
Has anyone ever told you: “I really shouldn’t tell you, but…”? When that happens to me, I say: “Then don’t.” Look, if there’s something I need to know, I’ll find out. Why would you want to give me some juicy tidbit just to get it out there, when I’ll probably resent you for sharing it with me? You know, the ole’ ‘hate the messenger’ type thing.
BUT, you might be saying, what about guilt? Ok, what about it? I knew a gal who was attracted to a colleague, and although they had lunch together a couple of times, she realized she was close to a boundary she had set with her husband and what was at stake. So she stopped seeing him in any social capacity and only spoke professionally to him at work. Nevertheless, she just HAD to tell her hubby about this. WHY?? Nothing really happened. But, she told (against my advice). He wasn’t just upset (like she assumed he’d be), he was furious. He took it way out of context and told her that she had probably ‘fucked’ this guy too, and when she vehemently denied it, he called her a liar (‘thou doth protest too much’ type thing). Their marriage was never the same, and they divorced a couple of years later. Hmmmm. Was unburdening that guilt worth it? Ask her 2 kids. They are now living with a stressed, single mom who is fighting to make ends meet, while rarely seeing their dad. Guess what? If you have guilt, suck it up, Buttercup. THAT is the burden YOU live with…the penance, if you will.
Look, if someone doesn’t like what I share, then they don’t have to read it. That was easy to figure out. For Petes sake, close the freaking tab. Block my site. Turn off the damned computer or shut down that iPad and take a walk.
But I’m not going to stop sharing, because if I can’t be genuine and talk about my life as it really is…and not just a ‘filtered’ social media version of it that’s all rainbows and sunshine, then I’ve put those masks back on, and they will eventually suffocate me in the process. Not worth a couple of people disliking me.
There’s another problem I have too (among hundreds of others): I not only yap too much, I also ask too many questions. Hello! I have degrees in Psychology…it’s sorta natural for me to do that. And to be honest, I think the most important question that we don’t ask enough, is WHY. Why are you so angry? Why are you acting so hateful? Why do you look so down today? Why did you share that with me? Look, behavior and feelings aren’t just random. There’s a cognitive process behind them and knowing the ‘why’ can help immensely in understanding the person. Another important question is WHAT. What can I do for you? What do you need? What is hurting you?
We are so quick to judge people on their behavior, that we often don’t stop to ask what’s BEHIND it. The whats’ and whys’. Imagine if we asked kids who misbehave that question before calling them out in front of the class. “Little Johnny, I asked you to stay in with me during recess today to talk about what might be happening to make you act out so much today. Why are you doing this? What can I do?” Wow. Think that could change a life or 2?
I’m also a big believer that past behavior can be a good indicator of future behavior. Not always, but often. I like to dig around in peoples lives; I find it fascinating, and as someone who has worked with 100’s of students from my classes on their personal issues, digging can uncover truths layer by layer.
I ask about past relationships when I’m dating someone new. Look, when you’ve been cheated on a couple of times in your life during both a committed partnership and a marriage, you want to understand where exes stand in their life. How closed those chapters are. It’s kinda hard not to worry about stuff like that. But that’s where the WHY comes back into play. “Why are you asking me these things, Kristi?”
Look, I know I share a lot. I know that some of it may not be the most comfortable reading material out there. But I also know this: I am NOT going to hide myself anymore. I’m not going to fake my way through the next few decades like I did before. I am not going to be ashamed to be me…warts and all. This is who I am. It’s my bipolar life. This is my experience with mental illness and it ain’t always purty. But it’s real. And to frank with you: I’m going to fucking own it.