Time to call us our bullshit:
TMI (too much information!) is code for “Why don’t you have the grace to be ashamed enough to die in silence so we can share thoughts and prayers at your funeral?”
I am old enough come from the stoic back woods west bumfuck area of the world where we sucked it up in silence and put a good face on all the bad things. There was nothing wrong, everyone kept up a good face, a stiff upper lip, and makeup hides lots of things. Especially when you are trained to not notice, like you are trained to pretend not to hear.
Now we come to the internet age, the age of the overshare, the “oh my god don’t you have any boundaries” age. The Age of TMI, too much information.
While I have said it often enough, it really is possible to have a meal that doesn’t get its own Instagram account, it is possible to have bowel movement without giving a play by play, somewhere in all the OMG, TMI I started to spot something.
I am a veteran, I am a Heathen, I am parent to an LGBTQ+ child, so I see a lot of similar posts, different languages from the different subcultures, but the same sort of waves of very public group sing bullshit affrimations in general go out, followed by specific depictions of what not doing OK feels like today that are met with, OMG, TMI, and the very real sense of offense for ruining peoples comfortable world view.
We need more Not Okay, and this is how I am coping. We need more, not okay and settling for surviving because I can’t pretend to cope posts.
We do the suicide prevention dance every year. We set up hotlines for strangers, we tell you to check your buddies, especially the ones who stopped talking.
Here is the thing, how about we encourage them to talk when it isn’t okay, and listen to the things that make us feel uncomfortable when they need to talk.
Normalize uncomfortable conversations. Normalize conversations that end with you saying “Shit man, I’m sorry, I never knew.” The cost of your comfort zone is those who you want to help being taught that on days they are not good, they will upset you and hurt you by telling the truth.
I am not virtue signalling, It shouldn’t be a virtue. WHO THE FUCK DOESN”T HAVE BAD DAYS?
I don’t care how much your life is in order right now, your physical and mental health, your family situation, your employment, your feelings of personal safety, all of these can go from shiny happy invincible to flaming wreckage in a heartbeat.
At some point, that will be you. At that point, who can you really talk to? Who are you okay with being vulnerable in front of? Who isn’t going to make you feel ashamed because they always thought you had it together and when the whole of your life is shit, feeling them decide you really weren’t a strong person worth knowing but actually a loser who can’t deal with their own shit?
Ugly Truth, the reality of who you could talk to is larger than your fears paint it.
Second Ugly Truth, a lot of people who say all the right supportive things in general want nothing to do with any of your weakness because their image of you is more important to them than the reality of you. Your needs threaten them. That one will hurt when you hit it.
You know what does help?
Not the hotlines, sorry, but maybe one percent will ever bother, and more than half the time they get dumped in ER psych for another round of “ignore your history and diagnosis, take a pill, take a seat, and oh my god why are you still taking up my space, fuck off.” For the purely medical problems they get the pamphlet level have you tried (yes for six weeks until doctors told me it wasn’t working, no initial screenings said it would harm me, not applicable, not workable, directly contraindicated by my diagnosis, and holy shit idiot, I have been doing this for five fucking years, do you even read the chart?).
What helps is the TMI posts.
When you are in your good days, reading the TMI posts of people you respect lets you stick in your head, hey, they have bad days too. Hey, I really respect them, admire them, but they aren’t always Okay either. Hey, they went through a really bad patch, but they got through it.
Maybe you can help, maybe you can at least relate, but even if neither of those is true, you are aware of it. You are getting the idea that people you respect are not always OK. That being not always OK is not something to be ashamed about.
You read the TMI posts about people who had a handle on their issues, but their control regimen stopped working, or needed to be changed. You read TMI posts from people who inspired you who had that bad day when they just gave up and quit coping.
Then a few days later they post again, back on their feet (more or less) and ready to keep going.
You don’t just normalize the idea that sometimes strong people are not okay, but you get a sense for who among your own friends understands, and is willing to talk.
Those TMI posts establish that thing conservatives hate. Safe space.
Funny, conservatives love to mock it. The Veteran Community has two distinct faces on the subject, the suck it up buttercup, chest thumping bullshit crowd, and those who are actually dealing with their shit, and want to make sure their buddies reach out for help, rather than eating their fucking gun on the nights they just aren’t up to it anymore.
The difference is that phrase, safe space. A place, a community, a forum, a group of people that they feel they can say things they aren’t proud of, things they aren’t sure of, and not have to worry about either somebody telling them to man the fuck up and shut up, or sending the police to murder them on a “wellness check”. Honestly, if you ever think you need to, don’t. Don’t ever send the police to check on someone in crisis, you will be responsible for what follows. I shit you not.
Safe places are those where you can say not only you aren’t doing well, but what among your coping mechanisms isn’t working. What among your struggles you aren’t up to facing. It is a place where others who have been there and done that can share with you without shame.
Shame kills kids struggling with gender and sexual identity, shame kills people struggling with chronic medical conditions or mental health issues. Shame kills people dealing with family breakdowns or grieving. Shame kills sexual trauma survivors and PTSD survivors.
Shame kills, so we can fake smile at each other and pretend its okay. You know what? Fuck that.
Comfort zones and safe spaces are mutually exclusive. Comfort zones use shame to keep you from sharing things that bother people to hear. Comfort zones convince you to stay silent, keep your problems to your self and die in the fucking corner quietly so we can all posture at your funeral about how we were all there for you; why didn’t you reach out?
Safe spaces are uncomfortable. Safe spaces leave you being told that some of what you have told them hurt a lot and some of your own defensive responses to your issues are making you lash out when they need to share something you don’t want to hear. Safe spaces are uncomfortable by nature, they are ugly.
We take off the bandages and look at the wounds. We stop pretending, and speak truth. Ugly, it won’t be okay, but I guess we can figure our something, kind of truth.
Safe spaces require courage to enter, because you won’t be clean or pain free when you leave. It isn’t Disney, you won’t solve problems by some My Little Pony power of friendship bullshit, but you can and sometimes do make it through the night, and share enough of the burden or find a resource or application of a tool you didn’t know about that might make you get through the night you might not otherwise have had the strength to get through.
Overshare. TMI, normalize not being OK because the 1950’s myth was powered by valium, alcohol and domestic abuse. It wasn’t a shiny happy time where everyone just coped, it was a time of suffering in silence and lying about cause of death.
We can’t afford comfort zones. So how about we get on with the overshares, and normalize having conversations where we aren’t ashamed to say “Not good” when someone asks how it is going?