How Much Info is Too Much Info When Sharing My Story

          Ever since I started my blog in October of 2010, I have struggled somewhat with what it should be about. A lot of bloggers have themes like reducing debt or chronic illness or parenting. My blog talks a little bit about everything that goes on in my life. A big part of my life has been my diagnosis of bipolar disorder and so I write about that on a fairly regular basis.

When Marybeth said I could come on board here to AaB, I was very excited and proud that my writing would get even more exposure. My husband has been extremely supportive of my desire to try to raise awareness of mental illness and to erase the stigma surrounding it.  As I am coming to grips with what kind of writer I want to be and how I want to use that talent. My husband acts as my barometer, my censor, and my editor. I am extremely fortunate to have a spouse who loves me for exactly who I am and who has been by my side fighting this disease with me for 23 years.

Now that my children are getting to an age where they can understand what mental illness is, I have spent some time recently talking with them about the fact that I have bipolar disorder and what that means. They know that before I was diagnosed, part of the disease manifested in behavior of which I am now extremely ashamed. It doesn’t matter that I know the behavior was the result of my illness. I look back at the things that I did and I feel as if I do not know the person who did those things. Even years later, I still judge myself.  Though I am working very hard to forgive myself, I can’t say that I actually have done that yet.  I am a completely different person now that I am on medication and have been working extremely hard in therapy for many years, but that does not erase the embarrassment I still have about the things that I did that hurt the people closest to me. And there are still times that I find the illness making itself known and that I do things I maybe will later regret or say things that I later wish I hadn’t said. Part of controlling this disease, for me, is having some kind of filter for my mouth and trying to think decisions through rationally before acting. Since I have trouble with impulse control, sometimes I need help from my family and friends as to how to behave.

As I get more involved in writing about my illness and sharing it with the online world, I realize I am making myself vulnerable. The internet can be a place of support, but it can also be a hostile place. I have been the victim of negative comments on my blog and they caused me great agony. Knowing the source did not make it any easier to “take it” and I had some pretty bad moments when I wondered whether I wanted to continue writing. I’ve heard that if you are a writer and want to be published, you need to be able to handle negative reviews. On the internet, those reviews can be instantaneous and horribly hurtful. There are some days that I think I can “take it” and some days that I don’t. One thing I have realized is that I seem to be much more sensitive to criticism than the people around me. I have also heard this from other people who have bipolar disorder, so I am wondering if that is a part of the disease.

Not only am I making myself vulnerable by the things that I share online, but I am also making my children vulnerable. I am sharing who I really am out of the desire to let people know that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Having bipolar disorder does not make me less of a person or a bad parent or someone who can’t accomplish great things. But by writing about the things I have done in the past and putting them online, am I creating a potential problem for my kids? How much of my behavior do I really want my children to know about? Are the things I am writing about things that might cause them pain?

I would never want anything I do to hurt my children and my duty as a parent is to protect them. One of the ways I am working to protect my children is by having my husband read everything I write that I think might have the potential to harm them in any way. I believe with all of my heart that he will put their well being ahead of my desire to get information out there, so if he believes it is okay for me to publish something I have written, I feel confident about putting it out there.

I may make some mistakes as I travel this road of learning how to write about my illness. I’m pretty sure that writing nasty things about my former employers and putting them on my blog was a bad idea. I can’t change the fact that I did that, but I did pull the posts down and send an apology that was never acknowledged. I’m okay with the fact that the email was ignored, because I clearly had stepped over the line with those posts. I am trying to learn from that mistake and be careful with what I put on the internet. But I am balancing being careful and protecting my family with my need to be a part in erasing the stigma that is still so prevalent regarding mental illness.

I recently saw a statistic that said one in six people has a mental illness. That means that of the next six people you see, one of them will likely have a diagnosed or diagnosable mental disease. Some of these people will realize that help is out there and that they can manage their disease. Some of these people will not, because they are ashamed. People who are ashamed of their symptoms and not reaching out for help are at extreme risk for suicide. Knowing that, I cannot remain quiet about my illness. I believe that if I had not gotten help when I did, I would not be here now. I think it is a greater service to my children for them to have a mother who is an advocate for mental health awareness and is willing to talk about what this disease is all about than for them to have a mother who is dead and have to live with the fact that their mom committed suicide.

6 thoughts on “How Much Info is Too Much Info When Sharing My Story

  1. That is one thing I have to consider too when I am sharing my info. While I may not have children right now, I do hope to have children and so I ponder if the things I have written, or will write, affect them in any sort of negative way? Granted, I don’t always stop and think and just get diaherra of the mouth, but that is definitely something to think about. But I do agree, that overall, getting some of those things out there does a much greater benefit. And what were to happen if someone was to mention some of those not so flattering things in front of your children? Would they be more upset in having heard it from someone other than yourself? Maybe. Maybe not. But, I would rather be the one to tell my own children than have them find out in some alternative way. So I guess its a pick and choose type of thing. You pick which things are going to do the most help for others and less harm to those closest to you. Its a fine line, and always a difficult decision, but its completely a personal decision. I’m glad that you are able to have someone like your husband to help you censor and review the information. That publish button can be so easy to push in a manic flurry of typing and insistence of getting out the fabulous words you have just spilled out. That extra censor sounds like a life-saver and sounds like a great idea for you Chelle!

  2. With regards to what to write about and what not to, i would like to suggest that you make a rule for yourself. For example when thinking about whether to write and post something that you are not sure of ask yourself: Would i be comfortable with “saying” the same thing to my children, my significant other etc.? If you think that you would not be comfortable with “talking” about it than i would say that it may be best not to write it or post it. And it can also help to ask yourself what may be the “ramifications” if i were to post this? This last one always helps me as i can have a tendency to be very “impulsive” and not think before i write or speak! Something that i continue to work on today. And Chelle i like the idea about having someone else read over what you have wrote before posting. If we can do all of these things it will hopefully keep us out of trouble and make us think before we act. Vicky

  3. I have a very bad habit that once I start writing the words just flow and I never realize exactly what I’m writing or where the story is leading until it is finished. Sometimes it makes for a good writing piece, Sometimes it can spell disaster. I always read over it when I’m finished of course but in the heat of the moment when the juices are flowing it always sounds great, the story came together wonderfully. Then later I will be laying in bed or sitting on the couch pondering it, going over it in my head and I will disect it, thinking about each little line carefully and then it occurs to me, did I really say that. Did I really put it that way? So I have to rush back and change it or delete it or try again. I have done this to Marybeth already. Turned something in and then later send her a new copy and said “no wait I changed my mind, I want it to go like this”. Sometimes I just get to writing and before I realize it I have given way too much of myself into my writing. And yes, I do have children, and yes I want them to read my blogs some day. and I want them to be proud not ashamed.

  4. Having just read my own post again, I am struck by (a) my grammatical and punctuation errors and (b) that my husband did not catch my grammatical and punctuation errors. LOL Thank you all for the wonderful comments. It is a daily struggle as to what I will tell my children versus what I will keep to myself. There are things I will never talk about, online or to anyone but my therapist, because they are hurtful things. And yes, it really does help to have a censor in my husband because I know if I run it by him, he will honestly tell me if he thinks I am going to cause problems down the line. He always seems to know if something is a good idea or not and I trust his intuition implicitly.

    Our generation seems to be much more trusting of the computer and internet age than my parents’ and we are more comfortable using this as a way of communicating and getting information out there. But it is a balancing act, for sure. I would never want anything I wrote to hurt my family (especially my kids) in ANY way.

    Chelle

  5. You have actually answered your own question. Having a significant other in your life to act as a “barometer” is so essential for someone who has bipolar illness. Your husband knows you so well, loves and supports you, and will certainly tell you if your posts are TMI. You seem to be open to his recommendations and that is half the battle. I wish I could say the same about my daughter. Frequently, her impulsivity leads her to do and say things that she later regrets, but she doesn’t want to use the resources available to her in this regard.

    The guilt that you feel about events that happened in the past may also be related to your illness. I have found, in my family, that bipolar illness can intensify feelings of guilt that are not proportional to the “crime.” Again, your husband can help you to rationalize and place everything in perspective.

    In MHO, you are doing everything as you should; thoughtfully and honestly, with the best of intentions. Your blog is a great service to those who often feel isolated, misunderstood and hopeless. If they are raised with compassion and understanding, your children will certainly applaud your contribution. Keep up the great work!

  6. I can’t thank you enough for those words. For everyone who expressed their support, thank you. This is such a hard thing and of course there are things I would never want to share with anyone. The internet makes it easy to let things out that you later regret. Your daughter may not accept that her impulsivity is a part of the illness for awhile, if ever. It took me a long time to get there and be willing to understand that fact.

    I agree that having my husband to monitor and approve things is key for me. I wasn’t always willing to listen to him, but it has become an integral part of my living a healthy life to open myself up to the fact that I am sometimes much too impulsive and tend to do things I will later regret. If I feel it in my gut that it’s going to be hurtful and he says not to and then I go ahead and do it anyway, I always regret it. So I have learned to listen to him and let him be the voice of reason.

    And always, in the back of my mind, if I know if I wouldn’t let him read it, I definitely should not share it online.

    Hugs,
    Chelle

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