01 March 2015

How Do You Tell the Ugly Stories?

Most of us experience a lot of things, simply being alive. Good things, bad things, meh things. We tell each other about them, or we don't, depending on whether we find it worth telling about. But sometimes, just sometimes, something really, really ugly happens. Of the sort where you may have to deal with it for the rest of your life. You might not want to tell people, but sometimes they need to know, for whichever reason is applicable. That is not something that anybody can really do anything about, except maybe by fundamentally changing how people treat each other, but I find myself wondering – when to tell? And how?

First things first. You may ask, why do they need to know? There can be so many reasons. It could be relevant for a new partner to know about your abusive ex. Or 'simply' about a past rape. Close friends would want to know about your diagnosis which is the reason you disappear from the radar sometimes, or could be the reason you fear to die in your 30's. Maybe you were bullied in school to a point where you have PTSD, and that inevitably influences new relations. Or any other thing; I don't know, and hope I never will, about all the shitty things that people can do to each other. This is the stuff that is the hardest to talk about, but at the same time is unavoidable in the long run. The stuff you can't just leave behind, however much you wish you could.

My own story is one of trial and error. Telling too much too fast, people look at you weird, and they avoid you in the future. Ok, fewer details, clearly. Maybe they use the knowledge against you. Ok, refrain from mentioning if you're not sure where they stand. Someone unintentionally triggers you, is truly sorry, and asks to know what's wrong, so they won't do it again. Ok, that's a fair concern, so maybe this is a good point to mention it.

From where I see it, there is no good and final answer, however nice and easy and comfortable that would be.

I can think of two immediate strategies for dealing with the whole thing: withdrawing and not talking about it at all, or being completely open about it and telling it from the get go. The latter strategy is clearly the more risky one, but the advantage of it is that you can fairly quickly identify if people are not worth keeping in your life.

What I have reached in the department of conclusions is that trust is the thing. (Yeah, totally rocket science right there, I'm sure you'll agree with me.) Trust and confidence that the other person is interested enough in you and your life to not just ditch the playing field, and will accept it as a part of who you are. Trust in their caring enough that they would never use this information against you. An ability to read people seems essential here.

So, the good time to tell would presumably be when you have this confidence, and they need to have shown that they deserve it. Telling little by little, maybe? When the good moment arrives? (The good moment never arrives, so when something vaguely related comes up, perhaps?) The how is contextual too. Whatever works, I suppose. (Don't look to me for guidelines here, this is a person writing who bought a one-way ticket to Spain just to see what would happen. I don't do guidelines. It's against my nature!)

And then, sometimes, you reach a point of trust, get things clear, everybody's cool, and then the new person walks out on you, for reasons unrelated to your trauma. That's part of life, shit happens, not so much to do about it, but suddenly you're back to ground zero regarding opening up about your past, since presumably you will meet someone yet newer again some day, and there you go, the cycle starts again. And this makes me feel a sort of exhaustion at times, since life is never done and settled, and you always have to keep on working on it. And it can be very frustrating, even while it can contain so many fantastic and beautiful things, too.

And the major burns keep giving you small stings, in one way or the other, even as your life goes on.

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