I share. I’m a sharer. It’s a conscious decision, you know? We humans tend to claim consciousness far too often, but in this particular case I’m 100% positive that I did indeed consciously decide to speak openly about myself- about all I know about myself if necessary.
It happened when I was 17 and my mom offered to pay for my therapy sessions privately, so no employer, insurance company or future husband could ever find out about those nasty flaws I have. I refused furiously, because I knew I didn’t choose to be the way I was, and therefore, shouldn’t be discriminated for it. Ever.
So, I made up my mind on that topic for good: if anybody in the whole wide world should be able to talk about stigmatized issues such as mental disorders then an otherwise healthy white girl from an educated, wealthy background. Life put one single burden on my shoulder: a lack of mental resilience. I should be able defend that burden against stigma in order to make things better for people who have a bit more to deal with.
So, that’s my thinking when it comes to transparency. I’m certainly not made out of glass. I think, feel and do a lot of stuff that no one knows about. However, one of the many things I learned in Madagascar was that privacy is a luxury of the Western world and not necessary for survival. It should be granted to anyone, but sometimes one can give it up in order to make the bigger picture a better one.
And this is why I think the world would be a better place, if people were more willing to be honest about their weaknesses:
People posing as invincible winners at life – which is blatantly unrealistic – was a bit intimidating to me when I was younger. There were a couple of times in my life when the thought that I was the least qualified person in the room to speak up held me back from expressing doubts or critique. Some of those times, I later regretted deeply. In the bigger picture, the dangers of discouraging people from speaking their mind far outweigh the risk of hearing a lot of bullshit from idiots. Yet, free speech isn’t necessarily secured by laws, but by open minds.
How can you bring yourself to seek support if everybody else pretends they don’t need that shit? How can people learn from each other’s mistakes if no one ever admits to them? And also, it is my conviction that no reality, no matter how harsh, will ever be as hard to deal with as the diffuse consequences of repression. There’s so many standard examples for this: There’s the man who has trouble at work, comes home, doesn’t talk about it, but starts yelling at his wife and kids over absolutely nothing. Or the girl that needs her parents to take care of her in one way or another, but rather chooses to starve herself until people have to take care of her, than simply ask for what she needs. Or the bullied kid that falls into depression because of all the repressed feelings of shame, humiliation, aggression, and helplessness, if he or she is never granted a chance to get it all out…
It’s so obvious if you reflect upon the times were you did talk about something that had been torturing you for a while. Wasn’t that s u c h a relief? Still, it seems people have to experience this relief a lot of times before they start trusting in the healing effect of being open about their emotions. That is probably, because facing your demons is scary as hell and often remains scary for a long while. Some of those demons will always continue to occasionally make you angry, sad or disgusted with yourself and others. But going through a couple of emotions won’t permanently damage you, ever. The stuff you repress might, though.
Stigma encourages repression. So to my friends and family members who expressed concern for my privacy and discouraged me from sharing too much: it always hurts a little when you do that, you know? I know where you’re coming from, I really do. I’m grateful that you care enough about me. And yes, it happens that people use my openness against me. But in the bigger picture, there is no shame in being ‘crazy’. Communities, institutions and individuals who treat it that way should learn better. In fact, you guys could even try and air a little public pride of how hard I worked on getting better. You don’t have to, though. I can do that for myself. See?