Ive been accused of a number of crimes, socially unacceptable behaviors, and litany of outrageous transgressions during the course of my mental illness. While the majority of the truly grotesque periods and expressions of my mental health disorder where shadowed by the gates of a locked down unit in a hospital, many acts, to this day, were outside and very much visible to others. This is due to the nature and disease process, also, to the system itself, which does not allow people to be confined and admitted to the hospital until things get truly out of hand.
But back to the intended topic, which is, when is sharing too much? Well, I guess to get to the root of it all, one must ask, too much for who? I have had a number of friendships which have been damaged, if not lost, to the expression of my mental health disorder. Recently, a friend said to me: “Max, you expect people not to have feelings about how you behave when you are manic, or psychotic, or both”. That people must process out there feelings, and forgiveness, or be forgiving my transgressions, because feelings are not automatic. I get that. I understand people need to process out their feelings in relationships. I understand, that the behaviors I have enacted or displayed, impact the feelings of other people involved with my day to day affairs. What I don’t understand, is, how irrationality, and other symptoms of illness, should be taken as true expressions of my character, and who I am today
Forget then, forget my past. Okay, fine. You experienced my disorder in its full blown magnitude, and you have seen too much to forget it or forgive my behavior. That, I can handle. For I experienced the horror first hand, and if given the choice, would never experience it again, or ever. I was forced too experience it. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. You have the choice, as a friend, whether to walk away from all of it, or to be an unconditional support, and be there, regardless of how your friend is behaving at or how he is feeling in the moment. I have said it all before, when you have a chronic illness, that moment, is all the time. So, as a support, you cannot pick and choose when it is you feel strong enough, or capable enough, of being there as an unconditional support to your friend with a mental health disorder.
Much of this comes in the sizable wake of writing Small Fingernails, Even Less Love💕 . Some of my socially unacceptable behaviors I characterized in the book are too much for some people. They are disturbing, graphic portrayals of how I behaved in my first relationship, which, generally, coincided with the birth and activation of my schizophrenia symptoms. I held nothing back, and never do, in my writing. Partially because I believe in full transparency, another, that these novellas are archival records of my life, and ultimately, why tell an incomplete story? The fact of the matter is, the story is still too much for some people. I am having a hard time with this, as a writer, a friend, a professional therapist, and person in recovery. Why? Because I am able to separate out, and always have been, the person from the diagnosis. The friend, from his illness. History, from the present, and my support, from giving someone a free pass on their misbehavior. I never asked for approval, for the thumbs up: “Hey, Max, you were a great person, then”. I didn’t ask for anything like that. All I ask for is a honest interpretation of the reflective work I have completed during the writing of Small Fingernails, Even Less Love💕 . What I go back from other people, instead, was less of an interpretation, and more suggestive, that my novellas exist to exonerate myself of my past, and rid myself of guilt. That is not true and is, in fact, a bold faced lie. My novellas exist to educate, provide the reader with a first hand account of what mental illness does to people, their relationships, using my life as a case report and study for the benefit of the reader. Ultimately, if my story isnt benefiting you, put down the book, and ask me not to share it further with you. Unless you make it clear what your needs are as my friend and reader, I cannot help how you are impacted by the narrative and my choice to share my life with you.
Its a gift really, in the end. Back to the question, is something sharing too much? I have said, and will always say, no. Full disclosure, when appropriate. When is it appropriate, Max? How do we know? When it benefits the other person. When does it benefit? Always if that person is giving you unconditional support. Is it possible someone might not be able to do that in the moment? Sure, than that support should make it clear enough to you that your needs have to come second. But that shouldn’t mean your history is anything to be ashamed about. In cases like these, when supports cannot handle the level of support asked of them, be careful, and tread carefully, how you handle this may impact the feelings of those you are in a relationship with because they may feel you are looking down and judging their history. I can understand this, if what I say is too much! It must mean, something is wrong with it. I have a hard time believing any less….