Thursday, July 23, 2009

How much better would your life have been if it had not been full of secrets?

As much as I sometimes disagree with her and sometimes find her posts slightly manipulative, at other times I very much enjoy reading Penelope Trunk's blog for her voice, her sense of humour, the way she gets me thinking, and especially for her candor. And she's done it again.

She recently posted an explanation of why she is so open about things many of us would never dream of talking about, at least not out in public on the internet with first name last name picture and everything--getting divorced, having two abortions, her company's financial troubles, her romantic life, you name it. Here's an excerpt:
My point is that my childhood was ruined by secrets.

In hindsight, so many people kept the secret: my family, the police, teachers before my freshman year. Decades later, when I asked my high school friends what they thought of me in high school, two of them told me that everyone thought I was nuts coming to school beaten up so often.

I’m not kidding when I say that I thought I was keeping that a secret.

So what I’m telling you here is that I’m scared of secrets. I’m more scared of keeping things a secret than I am of letting people know that I’m having trouble. People can’t believe how I’m willing to write about my life here. But what I can’t believe is how much better my life could have been if it had not been full of secrets.

So today, when I have a natural instinct to keep something a secret, I think to myself, “Why? Why don’t I want people to know?” Because if I am living an honest life, and my eyes are open, and I’m trying my hardest to be good and kind, then anything I’m doing is fine to tell people.

That’s why I can write about what I write about on this blog.

And when you think you cannot tell someone something about yourself, ask yourself, “Really, why not?”

In some ways, growing up in house with a mentally ill parent is not unlike growing up in a house with abuse, alcoholism, or some other dysfunction. There's so much secrecy. So much feeling like nobody else gets you. So much wanting to be normal, trying hard to pretend that things are normal. As if growing up weren't full of enough fear of being judged.

Funny how shame maintains its grip even when we have done absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. For me, it is a mixture of a little bit of shame and a lot of fear about how people will react. Mostly because even after having written a lot about my mother's illness and what it was like to grow up with her, I still have a difficult time articulating a lot of things. To come up with some sort of elevator speech for it seems an injustice. But it's a really hard thing to understand if you didn't grow up with some type of dysfunction and secrecy at home, if you didn't grow up much faster than you should have.

And I want people to understand, but can't seem to communicate it, and so I don't say anything at all. And I'm still terrified of people rejecting me, or that they'll stop talking to me or not ask me questions because they're scared of it and don't know what to say. I hate when people say things like, "That must've been hard." Um, well, it wasn't fun. What do you say to that that doesn't sound like you're seeking pity? I'm also scared that they will ask me questions, and even though that's what I'd prefer, that I'll just lose it when they do.

How open are you? Who was the first person you told? Do your friends know? Your significant others? Coworkers? Random strangers on the internet?

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