Geeks vs Loneliness: a note on oversharing

Is oversharing a bad thing? A few thoughts....

For this week’s Geeks Vs Loneliness, we’re handing back over to the brilliant Caroline Preece. And she wants to talk about oversharing: is it a good or bad thing?

“How are you?”

That’s a question that seems everyday to most, and like the scariest thing in the world to others. I’ve never been much of an sharer. As a geeky girl who grew up in a small town, it wasn’t something that came naturally when I was a child and bottling things up became even more of a habit once I’d entered adult life.

For someone with mental health problems, perhaps ones that took a while to be recognised or diagnosed, I’ve found that this is all too common. As much as the media has done lately to help break through some of the most common misconceptions around a lot of mental health issues, taboos still exist and humans remain uniquely talented at judging others they don’t quite understand.

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As such, the concept of sharing your personal struggles and worries with colleagues, friends or even family can be a terrifying one, with fears around rejection, ridicule or negative impact on your career often keeping people from seeking support when they need it the most.

Keeping thoughts, especially ones we’d rather not be having, to ourselves is a natural thing in a lot of ways. The problem is when the tendency to not talk about what you’re going through becomes the more dangerous practice of lying to those around you about how bad things really are.

That’s where it becomes not just important, but often essential, to become more of an oversharer. That word has negative connotations, of course, conjuring up an image of that annoying flat mate who talked about her sex life over dinner, but it can also be a vital tool in the arsenal of someone going through bad times. As with anything, once you say a thing out loud, it often loses some of its power over you.

No matter what your situation, family – self-made or biological – are an essential part of living a fulfilled life, and recognising that there are people in your little universe who’d love an honest answer to the above question is a big step towards making things a bit easier.

Telling someone you’re lonely or sad, whether it’s a long-term problem or a momentary dark cloud, shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do. But it is, and that’s because we’re so used to saying instead, “I’m fine, thanks!” instead of really considering our answer.

What works for one person won’t work for everyone. For example, I recently moved into a new flatshare and made sure those I’d be living with had a basic understanding of some of the less palatable symptoms of my anxiety and depression. At the same time, a lot of people I work with have no idea.

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This is a deeply personal thing, and it’s important not to do anything you’re not comfortable with. But a lot of the time, breaking through that initial barrier is the hardest part, yet something easily overcome.

Personally, because I’ve trusted a few people with how things are in the bad times, I’m also able to tell them about when I’m feeling better. They’re able to understand when I cancel last minute on a commitment, or when I need to be alone. Conversely, they can recognise when I need to get out of the house or eat a good meal, even if I don’t want to. I understand that not everyone is as lucky as me, but it’s also true that I could be in a very different situation had I not chosen to confide in certain people at the right time.

Next time a trusted loved one asks how you are, consider telling them the truth.

Thanks, as always, for reading.