Many of you have probably figured this out already, but if not, I will warn you now: I am an oversharer. Born and raised. I’ve always been quite open, and I almost certainly tell my friends and acquaintances more details than they want to know about my personal life. Relationship history, bodily failures, major life events – you name it, and I will undoubtedly tell you about it if you ask (and often even if you don’t ask; sorry, everyone).
But in my defense, this behavior seemed perfectly normal when I was growing up. The women in my family were all “Hey, come look at this rash! Does this look infected to you?” to every visitor who stopped by, so I just assumed that was standard. (It turns out it is not.) I’ve since learned to dial it back a bit, so as not to horrify the general public and my poor Indian in-laws. (You would not believe how uncomfortable my forwardness makes them.) But I still definitely err on the side of TMI. There’s no point in denying it.
Nevertheless, I maintain that this kind of communication style is actually quite useful and that it can benefit the speaker and the audience, if it is done at least somewhat skillfully. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that everyone needs to hear about their coworker’s head lice or anything. (Some things really are better left unsaid…) But since I began opening up and talking about my health and fertility problems last year, I have witnessed three very positive consequences of my “radical honesty” which I (of course) want to share with you now.
Number one: being open and honest with others makes them want to be open and honest with you. Boom!
There’s really no way around this one; it is absolutely true. People tend to like you more when they feel like you are being “real” with them, and nothing says “reality” quite like oversharing. (It’s even more graphic – and entertaining! – than television.) Whereas before I was afraid people would be turned off or freaked out by my openness about my ongoing struggles, the exact opposite has actually happened. I’ve literally had dozens of friends and acquaintances come out of the woodwork to share their own miscarriage / fertility / health / life struggles with me and let me know that I’m not alone. In fact, several of my previous friendships have been strengthened and at least three others have been formed specifically because of our frank discussions about these matters. It’s been an incredibly moving process, and I am forever grateful for everyone’s generous support. Three cheers for connecting with amazing people (even if it is over terrible things)!
Number two: you can actually learn / offer some very important information if you’re not afraid to talk about everything.
I first discovered this truth on my own, when I realized my doctors knew next to nothing about Factor V Leiden. (Sadly, I’m not exaggerating about this, at all. My previous doctor tried to prescribe me two different medications, either of which could have killed me – because he had no idea what he was doing. Needless to say, I don’t see him anymore.) As much as “Dr. Google” is bemoaned as the abettor of hypochondriacs everywhere, I was damned grateful to have somewhere to turn to help me figure out how to keep my blood from crystalizing. (Yay for Dr. Google!) And lo and behold, thanks to the Internet, I was plunged into blog after blog of detailed information from other women who were going through the exact same bizarre symptoms and diagnoses as me. It was like a glorious wonderland of weirdly sick people! And I was able to use their intensely personal accounts and lists of treatments to crosscheck the advice of my doctors until I was able to find someone who really did know what she was talking about. Thank God for the casual intimacy of strangers.
Moreover, I can say the same thing about many of my interactions with friends and family members who have come to me to ask about health and fertility issues that they are afraid to discuss openly with doctors. I’m obviously no expert, but I am knowledgeable enough about the female body and various chronic conditions to be able to adequately explain things to the curious / worried bystander. Because I’ve been so open about my own struggles and concerns, they know that they can come to me for more health-related information, should they so need it. See? My oversharing is practically a public service. You’re welcome.
And number three, I think that oversharing helps set the stage for people to be more genuine with one another and more honest with themselves. We live in a strange dualistic age where everyone is simultaneously more tuned into others through social media and also more dishonest about how we present ourselves to the outside world. (As you may have noticed.) I don’t know if any of you have heard about “Facebook Envy” yet or not, but it’s a condition wherein people grow more depressed about their own lives the longer they look at everyone else’s seemingly perfect ones on Facebook. (I know I have certainly felt this way on occasion, after looking at the infinity happy baby photos plastered all over my friends’ walls. Damn them and their working uteri!) Humanity: seriously, this has got to stop! Everyone is so obsessed with wanting to be perfect and wanting to come across a certain way that they needlessly stress themselves out and use social media to isolate themselves from others so that they can appear flawless. Now that is messed up. For God’s sake, be more open about your lives, share some of your secret imperfections, and chill the hell out! You are almost certainly no worse – or worse off – than the rest of us. Calm down.
For these reasons – and because it is in my blood (along with the clots) – I am quite defensive of oversharers and our heartfelt, uncomfortable conversations. We really do mean well, and we can make you feel 1000 times better about life and help you out, if you just let us tell you our awkward but hilarious stories. And next time we do, you should chime in, too. We’d love to have you join our ranks.