I was taught from a very young age to keep personal matters private. Whatever problems I had at home were to be dealt with at home. And while I often times felt isolated because of my inability to confide in others, I understood the importance of keeping things secret. I knew how judgmental people could be and how quickly they could turn on you if you exposed yourself. I knew that the secrets I told people could color their perceptions of me. And the last thing I wanted was for that to happen. I wanted people to better understand me and where I was coming from but I didn’t want them to look at me differently.
As a result, I made a conscious choice to reveal as little as possible about myself. I discovered that as long as I was entertaining and present in my relationships that people didn’t really care all that much about what was going on at home or in my head. But to be fair, it’s not like people know which types of personal questions to ask. People have a tendency to ask broad questions like, “How are you?”, “How’s your family?” Those are questions that are easy to deflect or respond simply by saying, “Good.” Perhaps if people asked me more specific questions, perhaps if it seemed like they could sense that something was bothering me, I would have answered the question truthfully. But they never did.
I don’t like bothering people with my problems or discussing things that they have no experience in. And when I do tell them things, it’s not because I’m looking for sympathy- which is something I think people don’t realize. I don’t tell people things about my childhood or teenage years to tug on their heartstrings. The last thing I want is for you to feel bad for me. And yes, what I went through was difficult and yes I still have issues to this day. But the real reason I’m telling you this is because I just need to verbalize what I’m thinking and feeling. You don’t know how important it is to sometimes have a conversation out loud and not in your head. And it’s comforting to know I can trust someone enough to tell these stories to. But if I’m telling you things, it’s not because I want you to feel bad for me. In fact, that’s the last thing I want. I just want to be able to express myself and release some of the poisonous thoughts and feelings that are festering inside.
There are two types of people I tell these stories to: confidants and those with similar life experiences. And by confidants, I’m referring to the people who are always there for me no matter what. And even then, I really only tell these people when I feel like I’m about to explode. I really don’t like bothering people with my thoughts, but I know that when I do that it isn’t a burden to these people. I know that what I’m saying won’t color their opinions of me. I know that if I tell them something horrible or traumatic that they’ll just sit with me, maybe hold my hand, and know they don’t have to say anything in return. I’ve found that there are very few people (at least in my friend circle) that have experienced similar things to me. But I do have one friend that comes to mind. I know that when my friend asks me a question about my family that she’s asking in a more perceptive way than the rest of my friends. She’s asking because she knows that there’s another answer beside just “Good.” And I know when I tell her the truth that she understands what it’s like for me to being dealing with the issue at hand. It’s a type of solidarity that no other kind of friendship can have. And it’s nice to know that there’s a person who can hear all about the shitty things in your life and not feel bad for you. Because they know it too.
People often get upset when they find out that there are things about yourself that you never told them. I think though that we need to bear our own crosses sometimes. We need to suffer on our own. And I’ve found that I don’t tell people about my struggles because I don’t want to bring those things into our friendship. If this friendship is the one part of my life that brings me joy, I don’t want to taint it with problems from the other areas of my life. I know that people think that the best friendships are the complicated ones, the ones in which two people share every secret and cry through every sad moment. I like to think that friendship doesn’t always have to be complicated. Sometimes friendship is just sitting on the steps and goofing off. And if I had a rough day, that’s usually what I need. I don’t need to tell you something that will make you sad, or put me in a sour mood. I just need you to be there with the knowledge that if I do ever need to come to you, that you’ll be there for me. Because that’s all we really need in a friend.