You Say “Oversharing,” I Say Vulnerability
As a 1985 baby, I’m one of the oldest millennials. My first email account was shared with my entire family and I didn’t experience WiFi until college. I’ve watched Facebook grow from an insular school-based social network to a site your grandparents use. My high school years were free of convenient front-facing selfie cameras, we sent out 10-cent texts with T9 (Google it, teenagers) and our Tumblr was called LiveJournal. Over-sharing about our lives was done in person.
There’s a lot of criticism of “over-sharing” in my generation, especially aimed at younger millennials. Apparently, we reveal too much online. I like to joke that I’ll live-tweet my eventual complete mental breakdown. We’ll see how I feel that day.
This is not a thinkpiece criticizing how kids today share too much. You do you, kids! This is a defense of over-sharing. One of my life values is a version of over-sharing I like to call “honesty.” I was raised in an Irish Catholic home by parents consumed by our public image. We were never supposed to air our family’s dirty laundry. I rebel against that notion as an adult. I’ve written here before about my eating disorder, my depression, my sexual trauma. Why would I share such personal stuff in a public forum? Because life is traumatic and I don’t understand why we’re encouraged to pretend it’s not. When I’ve shared my mental health/sexual trauma stuff with friends, the reaction is often “me, too.” No one’s life is as happy-go-lucky as the Facebook under-sharers pretend.
I recently became friends with a local queer writer and activist. He writes a popular blog about queer issues, feminism, and mental health. When we became Facebook friends, I initially found his honesty about his recent hospitalization jarring. I mentioned it to a friend, who immediately wrote it off as attention-seeking. I don’t agree. I’m inspired by this person’s honesty. He’s not afraid to expose the sometimes ugly reality of being institutionalized, of getting sober, of navigating treatment for mental illness. He’s a successful writer and activist and I love that he publicly acknowledges the difficult realities of being mentally ill.
2015 is a year I filed under “a rough one.” Among other difficult events, my dog died, I had a breast cancer scare, I had a stalker, my first foray into producing crashed and burned, I went through a devastating breakup. I wanted to rise from the ashes in 2016. In many ways, I have. I now produce a successful, career-affirming queer feminist comedy show. I’m paying my rent and a few bills from comedy. I upped my credit score from average to good. I’ve also been very depressed for several months. For the most part, I am managing it. I go to my comedy shows. I go to work. I see my friends. I also cry a lot. I spend a lot of time in bed. I procrastinate. I think about giving up.
This month, I hit a breaking point. The story about that asshole rapist at Stanford went viral. Stories and statuses about it took over my newsfeed. I was severely triggered for days, haunted by flashbacks and nightmares about my sexual trauma. I canceled two comedy shows and a podcast recording. I buried myself in to-do lists and mindless Netflix shows I’ve seen a dozen times to distract my mind and still feel somewhat productive. I wrote and deleted and re-wrote and re-deleted a Facebook status about how triggering all these articles were. I finally posted it. I was scared. But the consequences were beautiful: I was flooded with support. My over-sharing status about being triggered got over 100 likes. My friends texted me. My friends brought me coffee. My friends said “I’m triggered, too.” I’m doing much better, thanks to what some call over-sharing. I prefer to think of it as vulnerability.
To all the over-sharers: I see you. I hear you. I believe in you. Keep it up. Because we keep too many secrets. Because you’re not the only one going through that thing you’re going through, or that other thing you’re going through. Because being vulnerable is okay. Because your feelings are real. Because your experience is important. Because the world is a dark and scary place and we’re in it together.